The European Commission's Industrial Research and Development Advisory Committee, IRDAC, has published its opinion on the Community's forthcoming Fifth RTD Framework Programme. IRDAC's members are executives and senior managers from major industrial concerns based in all EU Member States. IRDAC calls for the competitiveness of European industry to be improved by putting more emphasis on innovation. It believes that the European Community has a special role to play in this, by coordinating RTD policies, stimulating standardization and pooling knowledge. IRDAC's opinion sets out boundary conditions which the Community should adhere to if its RTD programmes are to contribute to innovation in Europe. In particular, the Community should: - Consult industry; - Ensure a better link between different EC policies; - Not "pick winners", but leave industry a free hand; - Coordinate national RTD policies. In regard to the structure and content of the Fifth Framework Programme, IRDAC calls for a limited number of RTD programmes based around four main themes: - Knowledge infrastructure: . Training and mobility of researchers; . Access to large-scale facilities; . Technology forecasting and assessment; - International cooperation; - Generic technologies: . Information and communications technologies; . Industrial and materials technologies; . Life sciences and technologies; . Environment; . Energy; . Mobility; - Task forces. As far as programmes for generic technologies are concerned, IRDAC suggests that although the previous Framework Programmes have shown their great value, there is a need for less compartmentalization. IRDAC therefore suggests only six main programmes for generic technologies. The task force concept is a useful mechanism to bring the different actors together according to IRDAC, but the existing task forces should be tested and assessed before new ones are created. IRDAC's paper states that a sound knowledge infrastructure is required, with the emphasis on quality and industrial relevance. Participation to Community RTD programmes should be opened up to organizations from non-member countries, providing there is reciprocity and no transfer of funds to non-European participants. The paper acknowledges that dissemination of RTD results is an important issue, but suggests that this does not require a separate programme, since it can be carried out within each of the specific programmes. IRDAC also calls for strengthened measures in support of the participation of SMEs in RTD programmes, including the creation of a single CRAFT action for SMEs, with an open call for proposals and more frequent evaluations. It also suggests that the Commission should examine new financial instruments for the participation of SMEs. Finally, in regard to procedures and management of RTD programmes, IRDAC calls for procedures to be made less complex and less time-consuming. Programmes should be more flexible, and evaluation procedures should be more transparent and faster at every stage. IRDAC underlines the fact that successful implementation of the Community's RTD activities requires efficient management as a prerequisite. The key components of this should be quality and transparency.